October 16, 2018

Forcing the Farm

How Gene Drive Organisms Could Entrench Industrial Agriculture and Threaten Food Sovereignty

» Download the report

» Read the news release

» The letter, signed by food movement leaders around the world


More than 200 global food movement leaders and organizations representing hundreds of millions of farmers and food workers  set out their clear opposition to “gene drives” – a controversial new genetic forcing technology. Their call for a stop to this technology accompanies a new report, Forcing the Farm, that lifts the lid on how gene drives may harm food and farming systems. 

Gene drives are a genetic engineering tool that aim to force artificial genetic changes through entire populations of animals, insects and plants. Unlike previous genetically modified organisms (GMOs) these gene drive organisms (GDOs) are deliberately designed to spread genetic pollution as an agricultural strategy – for example, spreading ‘auto-extinction’ genes to wipe out agricultural pests. Agri-research bodies now developing these extinction-organisms include the California Cherry Board, the US Citrus Research Board and the private California company Agragene Inc. Next month, the United Nations Biodiversity Convention will meet to discuss measures to control this technology, including a possible moratorium.

The Forcing the Farm report, researched and produced by ETC Group and The Heinrich Boell Foundation, details several ways in which gene drive technology is being readied for application in agriculture. The report exposes how gene drive developers are deliberately keeping agricultural applications from view while trying to focus public interest on high profile health and conservation projects. Reports of secret meetings with a US defence committee show that agribusiness firms such as Monsanto-Bayer and Cibus Bioscience appear to be engaging with gene drive development. 

Gene Drives and Agriculture: Six examples drawn from Forcing the Farm

  • Gene drives are being engineered into flies, insects, worms and other pests to spread sterility as a biological alternative to pesticides.
  • Researchers are proposing using gene drives as a breeding tool to increase meat production in livestock.
  • “Auto-extinction” gene drives are being engineered into rats and mice as well as beetles that affect storage of grains.
  • Patents have been sought to engineer gene drives into honey bees to control pollination patterns using light beams.
  • Research is ongoing to engineer gene drives into common weed species to make them more susceptible to herbicides such as Roundup.
  • Analysis of two key patents on gene drives show that they each reference around 500-600 agricultural uses including brand names of 186 herbicides, 46 pesticides, 310 agricultural pest insects, nematodes, mites, moths and others 

If your organization would like to sign on to the call for a moratorium against gene drives, email genedrives@synbiowatch.org

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